ATLANTA — Three years and three days removed from falling one-yard short of reaching the 100-yard plateau, Aldrick Robinson can now officially add a new bullet point to his NFL resume. With Julio Jones out of action for a second-straight week, Robinson led the Atlanta Falcons receiving core with four catches for 111 yards during a 41-13 drumming of the (1-13) San Francisco 49ers Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome.
Atlanta, now 9-5 on the season, moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South after the (8-6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the (12-2) Dallas Cowboys Sunday night, 26-20.
Oddly enough, the near miss at the 100-yard milestone came against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 15, 2013, while Robinson, a 28-year-old former Waxahachie Indian, was still with the Washington Redskins. During that game, the SMU grad pulled in four passes for 99 yards on seven targets.
Robinson, who is now just one catch and 93 yards from setting new career highs (17-for-272 in 2016), partially credited the 49ers’ hyper focus on stopping the run for his increased opportunities in the open field.
“[The 49ers' defensive scheme] opened it up because they were trying to play a lot of man [coverage]. They were trying to stop the run, so it left us one-on-one on the outside,” Robinson told the media following the win. “[…] It was a big opportunity, like you’ve seen today; I had more targets out there. I was able to come through for the team and make plays.”
Matt Ryan, a nine-year veteran signal-caller for Atlanta, told AtlantaFalcons.com that, even with Jones out, the Falcons’ ability to string together back-to-back 40-point games is a testament to their depth at the skill positions.
“Trust me. Whenever [Julio] is ready to go he will help us out for sure. The last two weeks and specifically today we’ve had different guys step up. Aldrick [Robinson] stepped up today and I can’t say enough about how happy I am for him and the way he played,” Ryan said. “He made two awesome catches. One where I was rolling to my right and threw it to him contested on the sideline. He made a really good catch with strong hands. The other one was on a crossing route right to left. Actually, I threw a bad ball. He went down and was able to catch that.
“[I'm] just really proud of the way he played and it couldn’t happen to a better guy. I think that was his first career 100-yard receiving game. He’s been a guy that has worked really hard and been really diligent for us all year. When his number has been called at different times throughout the year he has played really well.”
Ryan finished with 286 yards through the air on 17-of-23 passing and two touchdowns. His longest completion of the day came in the second quarter when Robinson hauled in a short pass across the middle for a 59-yard gain to the San Francisco 16-yard line.
Robinson played on 81 percent of the Atlanta offensive snaps, which was sixth on the team behind the five starting offensive lineman and Ryan. The next closest receiver in terms of playing time was Mohamed Sanu, who appeared on 68 percent of the offensive snaps.
“I thought Al showed a lot of toughness. He took some real physical hits and for Al, good catches, in traffic, physical plays, and breaking tackles. It’s a real strength at that receiver group. For us to have the kind of day that we did today without Julio Jones in there shows the readiness of the other players from Taylor Gabriel and Robinson when their time is called,” said Atlanta Head Coach Dan Quinn to the media pool on Sunday. “Nik Williams was an example of that last week. So it’s for sure one of our strengths. They’re a very competitive group, from being around them you guys know that. The standard for them is the same and I thought Al did a really good job demonstrating that today.
“He had an excellent week at practice, and I’m not surprised that he played well today. I brought that up to Raheem Morris on Wednesday and Thursday. I said I feel the intent coming out of 19 in terms of his work ethic at practice and the discipline he put into the routes. I saw him and Julio talking about certain routes on Thursday at practice and going through some of the things. Although Julio wasn’t playing, he was certainly connected, not only to the team but to the receivers, imparting some of the things that he knows that would be important to Al. Those are the things I look for as a coach and it wasn’t just from Julio but you see it in practice, guys running sprints on their own and doing those kind of things showing how far they’re willing to go for one another. I think Julio is a good example of that.”
The Falcons hit the road for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday, Dec. 24 against the (5-8) Carolina Panthers. Atlanta won the previous meeting, 49-33, Oct. 2 at the Georgia Dome. During the game, Julio Jones accounted for 300 yards and one score on 12 catches, while Robinson finished with two catches for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith